Today, we hear that Saint Paul ran into some problems while he was preaching. There were many Jewish Christians who wished to cling to the Old Law and did not understand its relationship to the New Law. It was difficult and hard for them to understand the changes. Therefore, Paul went to Jerusalem to speak with the Apostles, that is the authorities, to sort this issue out. The question is still relevant to us today! We might not cling to Mosaic Law, yet because this controversy reveals to us the importance of the New Law, it will be worthwhile for us to examine it. For without the grace of God and we can't make any progress in the spiritual life. Let us, now look at the differences between the Old Law and the New Law.
In the Old Law, God gave lists and lists of commandments and sacrifices for sin. However, they never pleased God. Why? Too often, the Jews failed to grasp and obey the Law. The Law condemned exterior actions: adultery, murder, profaning the Sabbath, failing to observe ritual sacrifices, and much more; however, it gave no power to actually follow the Law. For this reason it was incomplete: imperfect. The Law which was good for them, as St. Paul says elsewhere, only lead to further sin and inspired further hatred for God. You see, apart from God, it is impossible to please the Lord. We quickly fall into sin even after attaining to some virtue, and even if we persevere in some virtue, we still fall into grave and mortal sin.
A miserable plight we creatures are in! The Jews knew this especially because they saw the Law; they knew the Law and the requirements for pleasing the Lord, yet they found that they could not keep the Law.
New Law of Grace
This is because they needed God's grace. In the New Law of the New Covenant, God's grace is finally given in abundance to his people! It is available to all people in Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Confession, and all the sacraments. His mercy, his help, and his love are always available to us by these means because they graft us onto Christ Himself! The Gospel says, "Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me." That is, unless you remain in the vine, Christ Jesus, our Savior and our Hope, you will not bear good fruit. By good fruit, the Lord means good works: justice, generosity, self control, gentleness, kindness, and everything else. By clinging to Christ and remaining in him, the sap of the vines courses into our lives. This sap is the Lord's grace, a participation in His own life which changes our hearts.
It is for this reason that the Old Law became obsolete and St. Paul did not want to subject the Gentiles to it. While the Old Law could not change our hearts, the New Law does! The Old Law was imperfect because it could not make us love God. The New Law is perfect because by it we lack nothing needed to love the Lord. While the Old Law was entirely exterior, lacking the power to transform the human heart, the New Law is interior and transforms the human heart, making it bear much fruit.
This fruit makes us pleasing to God. By it we become his disciples: faithful until death. And, the Lord has promised. He has sworn an oath--and because He is God we know that this promise is true. The Lord has promised that if we remain in Him, "ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you." My brothers and sisters, ask the Lord and settle for nothing less than the best: Heaven. The beatific vision! Ask for the Heavenly Kingdom, my brothers and sisters, for yourselves and for your neighbors. Ask for all of us that "we will go up to the house of the LORD." That we might enter into the Heavenly Jerusalem and set our eyes on the Lord.
Do you see why it was so important for St. Paul to confer with the disciples on this matter? It touched on grace, for if we were still bound to the Old Law we would not have grace and we would not have the promise of salvation. Praise the Lord for the Gift of the New Law! Because we can now remain in the Lord, the vine, and bear much fruit.